Melvin Watt was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in 1945 and grew up in a Charlotte suburb called Dixie. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1967, he went on to earn a J.D. at Yale Law School in 1970 and then became a civil rights lawyer. He served one term in the North Carolina state senate (from 1985 to 1986), and he managed several of Harvey Gantt's political campaigns (including Gantt’s unsuccessful race for the U.S. Senate in 1990).
In 1992 Watt ran for a congressional seat in the newly gerrymandered 12th District of North Carolina. He won the Democratic primary with 47 percent of the vote in a four-way race, and in November he won the general election -- thus becoming his state’s first African-American member of Congress in 92 years. Watt has been re-elected every two years since then.
A lifetime member of the NAACP, Watt belongs to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) consistently rates his voting record as 90-to-95 percent on the left side of legislation. During his years as a lawmaker, Watt has voted:
against Megan's Law, which requires the registration of sex offenders (he was the only member of Congress to oppose this measure);
against a resolution honoring Founding Father George Washington for his famous letter to a Rhode Island synagogue assuring its Jewish members that America gave “to bigotry no sanction”; (Said Watt: “For us to be applauding the statements discussing bigotry that were written by a person who owned slaves is a little bit more than I can, without a churning stomach, be able to tolerate.”);
against the development of a national missile-defense system;
against separate welfare-reform bills designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs;
in favor of prohibiting oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR);
against a proposal to fund offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf; and
against the “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act,” which provided that if a baby somehow survived an abortion procedure, medical efforts should be made to save its life (rather than permitting it to die of neglect).
For additional details on Watt's voting record, click here.
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